© 2005 Jonathan Bernstein
Estimated Readership: 14,000+
JUST A THOUGHT
The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with its credibility. And vice versa.
Excerpt from the notebooks of Lazarus Long, from Robert Heinlein's "Time Enough for Love"
CRISIS MANAGER UNIVERSITY
Suppose There Was A Disaster, And Nobody Came?
By David A. Shimberg, CBCP
This question is not as strange as it sounds. Why? If businesses expect government agencies to provide more than initial response actions of extinguishing a fire, providing emergency medical assistance, or perhaps disaster loans, those businesses are in for a sad awakening. Nobody will come!
Only pragmatic response and recovery planning, completed and practiced, BEFORE disaster strikes, improves the odds that an organization will continue after the event! Whether the disaster is natural or man-made, the impact is the same: lives are lost, businesses fail, there is physical and economic impact far beyond the immediate, visible, damage.
BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLANNING, BCP, is a structure program of activities, helping ensure an organization survives the impact of a disaster or event that severely interrupts regular operations.
BUSINESS SURVIVAL IS THE ORGANIZATION'S RESPONSIBILITY. Planning for reasonably foreseeable business interruptions, and taking appropriate, cost justifiable actions, is just good practice. Reasonable planning may also reduce the likelihood of legal actions by employees, stockholders, or even the government.
Business owners, employees, and shareholders are not the only ones affected by a disaster interrupting normal operations. Private sector businesses are responsible for a significant part of the critical infrastructure. The private sector accounts for over 85% of this country's critical infrastructure. The small business community in particular is responsible for over 50% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and represents over 90% of the U.S employers, 99.7% of all employees and pays 44.3% of total U.S. private payroll. When a disaster strikes, whether natural or man-made, in the U.S. or around the world, it is the business community and its employees that are first affected.
Lost wages, taxes, and productivity affect communities, placing additional burdens that may have far reaching affects. Disrupted supply chains may affect other businesses or entire industries. Contracts lost may never be regained, and yet BCP IS NOT EVEN ON THE RADAR OF MOST, SMALLER BUSINESSES.
In October of 2004, the Contingency Planning Association of the Carolinas, CPAC, working with Central Piedmont Community College, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Duke Powers, and with support form the Global Partnership for Preparedness, set up a project to help small businesses. 1000 invitations were sent to small businesses in the Greater Charlotte, NC area, inviting them to participate in a 2 hour program to provide them with information on Business Continuity Planning and help them start their own plans. NOT A SINGLE BUSINESS RESPONDED!
THE PRIVATE SECTOR EVIDENTLY HAS A SHORT MEMORY AND NEEDS ANOTHER WAKE-UP CALL!
CALL FOR ACTION: The wake-up call must come from sources the private sector views as credible and authoritative. Chambers of Commerce, local, state, and federal agencies must work with each other and businesses that understand the risks and potential impacts of disasters. This includes college and university programs that are preparing future leaders, who, without appreciating the importance of BCP, will continue to ignore it as a best practice. These groups, and others including the media, working individually and in concert, must increase awareness, help educate businesses and organizations, and provide encouragement, resources, and incentives for sound BC planning.
A wide variety of resources are available to help business and organizations understand BCP and protect themselves. DRI International (www.drii.org), Global Partnership for Preparedness (www.globalpreparedness.org), the Business Continuity Institute (www.thebci.org), and The Department of Homeland Security's site, www.Ready.Gov, are just four of the major sources for BCP information, training, references, and support. Links to professional associations of contingency planners are listed on a number of websites.
Finally, DRI International and Global Partnership for Preparedness are encouraging professional planners to provide "pro bono" help to small businesses, much as lawyers provide help where needed.
When a disaster strikes, businesses must be prepared with a clear, practiced, business continuity plan because...nobody will come!
David A. Shimberg is a Certified Business Continuity Planner, and the BC/DR Manager at Premier, Inc. He also worked as a BC Manager with Bank of America. He is currently Chairman of the Contingency Planning Association of the Carolinas, and Vice Chairman of the All Hazards Advisory Committee for Charlotte, NC Mr. Shimberg has also presented at professional conferences and meetings. Request reprint permission by contacting: Chairman@cpaccarolinas.org
The C-Factor: The Role Of Credibility In Crisis Management
By Jonathan Bernstein
Imagine your organization:
- becoming the target of a class action lawsuit alleging fraudulent marketing practices; or,
- being accused of creating a hostile workplace environment; or,
- learning, without advance notice, that it is the target of an investigation by a state Attorney General.
Not a great worry yet, you say, because there are two sides to every story, right?
No. Issues don't have only two sides, and no matter how well crafted the message, the credibility of the messenger -- what I call the "C-Factor" -- is as or more important in terms of impacting your stakeholders. Let's look at some of the potential stakeholders for any of these situations:
- Organization's Executive Team (and their families)
- Other Employees (and their families)
- Board of directors
- Municipalities that depend on revenue from and/or interact with your organization in some significant way
- Residents of municipalities that depend on revenue from and/or interact with your organization in some significant way
- Competitors (yes, they definitely have a stake in what happens to you, albeit a "reverse stake")
All of them have their own points of view on your crisis situation, and all of them are going to be expressing their points of view TO EVERYONE THEY KNOW.
In the absence of issues-specific information from you, each of your stakeholder groups is likely to come up with its own conclusions and opinions about what is actually happening.
And each of them, as groups or as individuals, have their own "C(redibility)-Factor." Like the famous "Q-Factor" associated with recognizable celebrities, I'm suggesting that everyone has a C-Factor -- the degree to which they are credible to others. When any stakeholder speaks about an issue, his/her/their C-Factor impacts the extent to which their messages are believed.
I will leave it to the research and statistic experts to quantify C-Factor, but I can offer some experiential and subjective observations about the importance of considering the C-Factor:
MATCHING THE C-FACTOR TO THE AUDIENCE. Who's going to be most believable speaking to employees? Is it the CEO? In some organizations it might be, in others it might be a lower-level manager. Who should speak to shareholders? The Chairman of the Board? The CFO? There must be a situation-specific analysis of their C-Factors.
IN A CONSUMER VERSUS BUSINESS COMPLAINT/ISSUE, THE CONSUMER ALWAYS STARTS WITH A HIGHER C-FACTOR IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION. In the wake of everything from Bridgestone/Firestone to Enron, Arthur Andersen, and many others, suspicion of business motives and practices are high. If a consumer SOUNDS credible, and is already starting with a higher default C-Factor, the business has to do a lot of work to balance perception. If the consumer sounds like he or she is ranting, they lower their own C-Factor. If the consumer hires a reputable law firm, his/her C-Factor goes up. If a law firm known to take "just about anything" on a contingency basis takes the case, the consumer's C-Factor may go down.
C-FACTORS CAN COMBINE OR BE ENHANCED THROUGH ASSOCIATION. If an organization or individual with a high C-Factor endorses a business' honesty or products, the business' C-Factor is raised. On the other hand, if those opposed to the organization or individual have their complaint supported by a high C-Factor organization (e.g., Sierra Club, ACLU), then the opponents' C-Factor gets a bump up.
C-FACTORS ARE NOT NECESSARILY BASED IN REALITY. Some individuals, because of their personal charisma, have a high C-Factor, sometimes even after they have committed publicly known "sins." Witness Bill Clinton or Marion Barry. Ditto for some organizations, such as the Better Business Bureau, whose fact-checking is, in my extensive experience, woeful, and whose record-keeping is often inaccurate and dated. Yet if there are "BBB complaints" against your business, consumer reporters automatically think that you're in the wrong.
I will be writing more about the C-Factor concept in the future, but for now know that we, as crisis managers, MUST consider C-Factors when deciding "who should talk to whom" and whether certain strategies should be employed.
Editor's Note: I would very much welcome reader comment on the idea of the C-Factor, and even follow-up articles if you feel moved to submit one.
Crisis Manager's Fifth Anniversary
I belatedly realized that this ezine celebrated its fifth anniversary on February 1. I remain very grateful for my loyal and often vocal readers, whose feedback has been almost universally positive and whose criticism has usually been on-target and constructive.
The first issue of Crisis Manager, distributed to 400 people on February 1, 2000, featured an article on the Internet as a Catalyst for Crisis and contained some advice for OJ Simpson. In hindsight, the principles contained therein hold true today. If you'd like to see that issue, it is archived here.
Thank you to my long-time Webmaster, Oliver Del Signore, who is also an expert proofreader. Oliver has been critical to the management of my site and for creating the HTML version of the newsletter.
And a special thank you to my wife, Celeste Mendelsohn, for being my original Webmaster, designer of the website's "new look" (now a year or so old), and also designer of the HTML ezine's logo, "OhNo the Ostrich." Celeste has also helped to inspire, or kill, a number of my article ideas. And, perhaps most importantly, she has provided moral support on those days when I am pushing hard to complete client assignments and still get this newsletter out.
CRISIS MANAGER BUSINESS ANNOUNCEMENTS
Teleseminar: Crisis Management & The Law
How PR Pros & Lawyers Can Work Together Effectively
Featuring Richard Levick and Ed Novak
February 23, 2-3 p.m. Eastern
There are still spots available for our Crisis Management & The Law teleseminar. Whether attempting to prevent or respond to crises, constructive and successful interaction between attorney and public relations professionals can significantly enhance results. Conversely, if they're butting heads, the results can be disastrous. Wise attorneys know that public relations considerations must be included in a CEO's deliberations, and vice versa. Not just when faced with litigation, but also when engaged in other sensitive transactions. Registration is $95 for "as many people as you can crowd around a speaker phone." You will find more information, and can register, at www.thecrisismanager.com.
Crisis Alert Service Launched
For anyone who missed the announcement, Bob Aronson and I just launched a free "Crisis Alert" service to bring you news of trends and events that we believe could evolve into crises in the near future. The first alert addressed the dramatic rise in workplace use of methamphetamines and what readers could do to minimize the chance of that addiction creating crisis situations. [Note: Service has been discontinued]
PLAIN ENGLISH DISCLOSURE
Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. has formal or informal co-promotional and mutually beneficial business associations with a number of the services we mention periodically in this newsletter. No, we can't go into details because that's confidential, proprietary, etc. But our relationship is NOT "arm's distance" and you should know that, since we regularly write about these services as we use them for crisis and issues management or other purposes. That said, you should also know that Bernstein Crisis Management sought the relationships because its staff is convinced that these services are the best of their kind for Bernstein Crisis Management's needs and those of its clients. If you have any questions about these relationships, please contact Jonathan Bernstein, (626) 825-3838.
ABOUT THE EDITOR & PUBLISHER
Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com, a national crisis management public relations agency providing 24/7 access to crisis response professionals. The agency engages in the full spectrum of crisis management services: crisis prevention, response, planning & training. He has been in the public relations field since 1982, following five-year stints in both military intelligence and investigative reporting. Write to email@example.com.
Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. is located at 1013 Orange Avenue, Monrovia, CA 91016. Telephone: (626) 825-3838.
GUEST AUTHORS are very welcome to submit material for "Crisis Manager." There is no fee paid, but most guest authors have reported receiving business inquiries as a result of appearing in this publication. Case histories, experience-based lessons, commentary on current news events and editorial opinion are all eligible for consideration. Submission is not a guarantee of acceptance.
When I find a site that I think will be useful to my readers or site visitors, I put it on our Links page. If you have a site that would be of specific use to crisis managers and want to discuss a link exchange or other cooperative effort, please write to me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
All information contained herein is obtained by Jonathan Bernstein from sources believed by Jonathan Bernstein to be accurate and reliable.
Because of the possibility of human and mechanical error as well as other factors, neither Jonathan Bernstein nor Bernstein Crisis Management is responsible for any errors or omissions. All information is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Bernstein Crisis Management and Jonathan Bernstein make no representations and disclaim all express, implied, and statutory warranties of any kind to the user and/or any third party including, without limitation, warranties as to accuracy, timeliness, completeness, merchantability, or fitness for any particular purpose.
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Under no circumstance shall Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein be liable to the user and/or any third party for any lost profits or lost opportunity, indirect, special, consequential, incidental, or punitive damages whatsoever, even if Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein has been advised of the possibility of such damages.
A service of this newsletter is to provide news summaries and/or snippets to readers. In such instances articles and/or snippets will be reprinted as they are received from the originating party or as they are displayed on the originating website or in the original article. As we do not write the news, we merely point readers to it, under no circumstance shall Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein be liable to the user and/or any third party for any lost profits or lost opportunity, indirect, special, consequential, incidental, or punitive damages whatsoever due to the distribution of said news articles or snippets that lead readers to a full article on a news service's website, even if Bernstein Crisis Management or Jonathan Bernstein has been advised of the possibility of such damages. Authors of the original news story and their publications shall be exclusively held liable. Any corrections to news stories are not mandatory and shall be printed at the discretion of the list moderator after evaluation on a case-by-case basis.
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